Company banking on hand sanitizer

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photo. A large tank sits outside the door of Gloucester Bio on Dory Road. Gloucester Bio is a large-scale manufacturer of premium hand sanitizer. 5/20/20

Talk about a pivot to a burgeoning market.

Gloucester Bio, the 2015 startup company that began as a supplier of yeast to alcohol distillers to help them produce ethanol, may not have completely changed direction.

But it certainly has changed lanes on the ethanol highway.

In January, Gloucester Bio responded to the COVID-19 crisis by launching an entirely new product line — an ethanol-based antimicrobial hand sanitizer to help businesses and individuals conform to new health and safety measures and navigate the sanitizer shortages that emerged with the pandemic.

"We really identified a regional need here in New England for a large-scale manufacturer of premier hand sanitizer," said Jeffrey Beeny, Gloucester Bio's founder and chief executive officer at its Dory Road facility. "We're really focusing on Massachusetts and New England customers, targeting people who really need it, people who are the front lines trying to combat the pandemic."

Beeny said the company already has sold its Gloucester Bio brand of hand sanitizer in liquid, gel and foam formats to a variety of personal, commercial and health care consumers, including the communities of Andover and North Andover, North Shore home health care companies, and local hospitals.

"Our goal is ultimately to have a completely automated system that will allow us to go from producing 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer every day to producing 8,000 gallons per day." Beeny said.

He said several micro and large alcohol distillers temporarily switched to producing hand sanitizer when the pandemic struck and demand for sanitizer soared.

Gloucester Bio, he said, is in this new market for the long haul.

The transition from producing yeast to producing hand sanitizer presented its own challenges.

Gloucester Bio had to make sure it had a dependable and steady supply of ethanol.

It had to deal with a world-wide shortage of plastic bottles.

It had to significantly expand its ethanol storage capacity at its Gloucester facility and it had to fully automate its production and bottling line.

Gloucester Bio's longtime relationship with Midwest ethanol producers solved the first problem. It located a plastic bottle manufacturer in China that could satisfy its production demands for containers ranging from 2 ounces to a full gallon and is expecting a shipment of more than 125,000 bottles within the next month. 

Gloucester Bio also purchased, and is in the midst of installing, a 10,000-gallon tank for on-site storage of the ethanol that is trucked here from the Midwest in 8,000-gallon shipments.

"We have invested over $1 million into our facility and equipment, as well as toward hiring new employees," said Dave Anderson, president of Gloucester Bio. "Our facility provides us 16,000-square feet of manufacturing space with room to expand to over 25,000 square feet with new industrial mixers, automated bottling lines and ethanol storage capacity to produce over 10,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per day."

The company also looking to expand its current workforce and initially anticipates a two-shift production schedule to meet the growing demand for hand sanitizer.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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